I think it’s important for writers to be clear about and be able to back up their own biases. When it comes to growing our local economy, I think the best way to do this is to support locally owned businesses. I don’t just think it, the research backs up this concept.
We can support local businesses from the start-up phase to larger companies that are selling goods and services around the world. One of my favorite categories for local businesses is the food growers and the businesses that make products. Since our super power is growing an incredible array of food, we should build on this strength by making products from this bounty.
Cottage Food Law: what is it and who can take advantage?
In 2013 it became legal for people in California to make food products in their own homes and then sell them in the marketplace. This is commonly called the Cottage Food Law. The state maintains a list of the foods that are approved for someone wanting to take advantage of this relatively new law. There are requirements for food handling training and for the health aspects of the kitchen, along with labeling rules. They aren’t really that big of an obstacle and you can find answers to those questions and others here. A great, comprehensive resource for anyone wanting to start a food business is this NOLO Press book.
My goal with this blog post is to spread the word about this opportunity for small scale entrepreneurship. Think of all of the people who could take advantage of this low-cost option to starting a business or to develop a way to make some extra money to supplement their income:
- Stay-at-home parents
- People who are hard to employ (low educational attainment, criminal history, poor work history, etc.,)
- Downtown Revitalization Consultants
Many of our successful food companies like Ruiz Foods and Valley Lahvosh started with very humble beginnings. With support from the community, some of these small-scale businesses could grow into large employers. Imagine our community with hundreds of specialty food makers. We would all benefit from their delicious creations and every purchase would be helping an entrepreneurial neighbor. The entrepreneurs would have a chance to learn their business model, and the best would rise to the top. After a couple of years of operations, they could get investors or loans to grow their businesses.
How you can help food startups in our area
So far the number of people taking advantage of this opportunity is remarkably low. In Fresno County we only have 92 Type A cottage food permits and 29 Type B permits. Type A permits allow a food maker to sell directly to customers; a Type B permit allows the entrepreneur to sell to stores or restaurants. Wouldn’t it be great to see these numbers dramatically increase? If you have a skill that could help these startups, consider giving one or two of them some of your time for their first year or two. CPAs, insurers, attorneys, bankers, and marketing experts could really increase their chances of success.
We’re lucky to live in a county that is supportive of these cottage food businesses. You can find Fresno County’s applications and information here. Get started on your food business journey today. Let me know how it’s going and I’ll write a blog post about some of you so we can support you and track your progress.